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2018 Election: Kelly Leads Kawasaki in Nail-biter; LeBon Edges Dodge; Incumbents Win

KUAC file photos

Alaska State Senate President Pete Kelly of Fairbanks has a slim lead over Democratic challenger Scott Kawasaki after Tuesday's election. And Bart Lebon is holding on to a 79-vote lead over Kathryn Dodge in the race for the House District 1 race.

Kawasaki says despite Kelly's slim lead in the contest for the Senate District A seat. But he says the race isn’t over yet.

“There’s still hundreds of ballots that are out there that are yet to be counted,” he said late Tuesday night. “Those are ballots that are questioned ballots – that’s folks who may have shown up at the wrong precinct. There’s also ballots that are absentee ballots, that have come in since last week. And there are absentee ballots that might be postmarked with today’s date that just haven’t gone through the mail process.”

Unofficial results show Kawasaki down 11 votes to Kelly, in a race that stayed close all night.
Kawasaki says it shows the district’s 13 precincts are nearly equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

“We worked really hard in the district. We talked to the people and I think we made inroads with people on both sides of the aisle, to get us as close as we have.”
Kelly reportedly was sick Tuesday night and unavailable for comment.

Kawasaki says regardless of the outcome, he hopes the candidate who eventually is declared winner will work to heal divisions created by the often-contentious campaign.

“When it comes down to it, we all have to come together as Alaskans,” he said. “We all have to come together for whoever gets elected in the end to try and make this a better community. And I hope to be the person who does that, but we shall see in the next week or so.”

Kawasaki raised more than $207,000 for his campaign, about $20,000 more than Kelly in what was by far the most expensive legislative race of 2018.

LeBon holds slim lead over Dodge

Alaska elections often have a race or two that is too close to call, and this time they are in the Interior. House District 1 has Republican Bart LeBon with 2,449 votes, ahead of Kathryn Dodge with 2,370 – that’s only 79 votes between them. KUAC’s Robyne caught up with both candidates Tuesday night while they were watching election returns.

Credit KUAC file photos
Kathryn Dodge, left, and Bart LeBon

Both Kathryn Dodge and Bart LeBon campaigned vigorously during their campaigns, and sometimes saw each other, knocking on doors in the district. LeBon says he felt he was behind all summer.

“Kathryn beat me on the yard-sign game,” he said. “It was impressive what she did with the ground game.”

The two candidates say both they learned a lot in their first run for the Alaska Legislature. The winner will represent “urban” Fairbanks – that’s “urban” in quotes, as the residential and business areas overlap in the oldest part of downtown Fairbanks along the Chena River.

Dodge says each neighborhood is different.

“We have a really diverse district,” she said. “We have some really poor people and some really rich people in our district. When I asked them what was important, education was almost always number one.”

Both Dodge and LeBon are likeable community leaders who were well-known in Fairbanks before this election. Both held office before – Dodge on the borough Assembly, and LeBon on the school board. But LeBon says he has a lot to learn if he wins the legislative seat.

“I ran on a platform of not going down to Juneau to raise taxes on working families in House District 1, so I’m holding to that pledge,” he said. “I hope to find myself in the majority, and on the finance committee.”

Absentee votes will determine this race, too, as Dodge and LeBon are less than a percentage point apart. 503 absentee ballots went out, and will be counted in the next week.

Hopkins wins, incumbents sweep other legislative races

Incumbent Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson cruised to an easy win in District 2, over Democratic challenger Van Lawrence.

In the Fairbanks District 4 race, Democrat Grier Hopkins handily defeated Republican Jim Sackett and non-partisan candidate Tim Lamkin. Hopkins, the son of former borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, will hold the open seat formerly occupied by his uncle, longtime Representative David Guttenberg.

Incumbent Fairbanks State House District 5 Democrat Adam Wool has retained his seat. Wool, bested Republican Kevin McKinley by more than 300 votes..

In regional legislative races, State House District 6 Republican Rep. Dave Talerico of Healy easily won re-election over challenger Ed Alexander of Fairbanks.

District 9 Republican Rep. George Rauscher of Palmer won re-election in a three-way race with Democrat Bill Johnson of Delta Junction, and James Squyres, also of Delta, who ran unaffiliated.

District E Republican Sen. Mike Shower won election with an easy win over Democratic challenger Susan Kelly, of Wasilla. Shower was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Governor-elect Mike Dunleavy, who quit the Senate.